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In light of Hurricane Florence: How to prepare for a natural disaster

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SEPTEMBER 21, 2018

As Hurricane Florence rips a path of devastation through the East Coast, now is a good time for us to pause and take stock of how prepared we are in the event that Berkeley falls victim to a natural disaster. While tropical hurricanes are not a threat on the West Coast, other events such as wildfires, earthquakes and droughts can be just as destructive, if not more, and it’s critical that individuals know what to do in an emergency situation. The Clog has compiled some essential tips, so should disaster strike Berkeley, you’re in the know and prepared.

Know your resources

The UC Berkeley Office of Emergency Management, or OEM, is the primary resource available on campus that advises students on how to prepare and respond to natural disasters. The student-led Berkeley Disaster Team also provides information and services to the campus community during such events. The city of Berkeley’s Office of Emergency Services is a subdivision of Berkeley Fire Department that offers information on how Berkeley residents can best prepare for and respond to threatening situations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, also runs a Twitter account that provides preparedness insight as well as updates during hazardous situations.

Stay up to date

During emergency situations such as wildfires or earthquakes, it is not uncommon for power or cellular service to fail, so knowing how you can get information and updates from government officials is a key step in preparing for emergencies. In addition to UCPD’s Nixle alerts, the city of Berkeley has many different modes of emergency alerts, and Berkeley’s community and student radio station KALX 90.7 FM also provides radio in emergency events.

Know the signs and how to respond

Sometimes dangerous emergencies aren’t initially obvious, and different situations require different responses. In some circumstances, alarms or authorized personnel will give the signal to evacuate, but other times, more subtle signs, such as a prolonged power outage, can also be an indicator that the building is potentially compromised. In addition, there are instances in which you may be instructed to shelter in place. Visit the OEM website for information on the proper protocol for different types of emergency situations, as this will help you make the most informed decisions possible when faced with disasters.

Know where to go

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The city and campus both have protocols for evacuation that students should familiarize themselves with in order to optimize preparedness for emergency. Certain roads that run near fire stations and hospitals become designated emergency access roads, according to the city’s evacuation network map. The Fire Department has specific instructions for wildfire evacuations, as wildfires are a particularly pertinent issue given the fire hazard areas of Berkeley Hills.

Furthermore, each building on campus has a designated Emergency Assembly Area, or EAA, that individuals should evacuate to, which can be found in the evacuation plans posted on walls, such as the one pictured above. Taking a few seconds to learn where the EAA is for each building you have classes in will help you know where to go quickly and efficiently. Furthermore, it helps to have a designated meeting spot with your roommates or close friends, so that if you lose contact or are separated, you’ll know where to find them.

Know what to bring

Every home should keep an emergency pack with supplies ready to go in the event that an emergency situation forces you to leave your residence. FEMA has a recommended list of items to pack. Many everyday essentials such as fresh drinking water or electricity to charge cell phones may become unavailable, so having a stock ready to go is crucial. Other important items include first-aid supplies, nonperishable food and a hand-crank radio. If you don’t want to collect items for the pack yourself, there are many preassembled kits on Amazon that contain all the basic necessities.

Know how to get help

The OEM operates an emergency preparedness app that can activate a siren mode on your smartphone, allowing you to signal for help if you are in a compromised position. The OEM also recommends making sure you have an emergency out-of-area contact saved into your phone who you can reach during a local disaster.

Have a plan

After you’ve reviewed all of the resources available to you, you can start drafting your own Pocket Preparedness Plan, so that if the time ever comes, you’ll know exactly what your best move is. From taking note of EAAs to knowing where your roommates store the extra flashlight batteries, the most critical part of disaster awareness is having a plan — knowing what to do, where to go and who you can call.

It can be overwhelming to think about a disaster situation happening in Berkeley, but the best way to keep yourself and those around you safe is to keep yourself informed and prepare yourself as thoroughly as possible.

Contact Hannah Nguyen at [email protected].

SEPTEMBER 21, 2018